Anticipation was high. We were looking forward to quality family time and a change in environment. The present moment, however, has a way of tempering expectations. Ever-present turbulence during the flight, regardless of the altitude, created a mock Tilt-a-Whirl effect. It afflicted our descent as well. As we dropped in elevation, a glimpse of the fog-shrouded Rockies offered some mental stability. We had returned to Calgary where Paul grew up.
A change in environment was an understatement. Making our way to the baggage claim was like going down Alice-in-Wonderland’s rabbit hole. Would our stay prove to be more of the same? This was our annual western Canadian adventure. Everything had changed: The international airport’s addition of two million square feet on two storeys; automated systems everywhere, including the declaration of goods brought into the country and passenger messages; and a massive water feature, along with large, attractive pictures, bright lights, and a shiny, tiled floor provided newness in every direction. Although spacious, the atmosphere made our heads spin. One aspect, however, remained the same: Cowboy and cowgirl greeters wore their Stampede outfits, hats, and welcoming smiles as they engendered a festive mood to prepare for the upcoming event July 7-16. Thoughts of bucking broncos and Chuckwagon Races grounded us.
We had been given the code to enter the gaited condo buildings where we would be staying. As the gate opened, we noted the additional growth of the garage ivy and other foliage. The home of Paul’s mother still had its quaint veranda with gorgeous flower boxes and magpie visitors. Having mellowed considerably, we arrived at the inner door of the condo. Impermanence struck again. The individual owner codes had been changed. We tried numerous times to work with the system, but with no luck. Reaching for his phone to contact his mother, Paul discovered a dead battery. Oh, great! Our only saving grace was a visit to his favorite coffee shop (which, by the way, had changed everything but its physical location) around the corner. We managed to find a power supply to get the phone operational and a Cappuccino for composure.
The phone rang. Success! A familiar voice was happy to hear from us and would meet us at the inside door of the condo. Her calming, pleasant energy reminded us to check our own energies. What kind of vibes or demeanors were we emitting? Were we able to rise above the numerous changes and resulting chaos we had encountered, regaining our peaceful and gracious true Selves—the Selves that went beyond Ego’s dramatic voice? Of course. Impermanence was only rattling our cages; Source is always in and around us. We have a choice.
Having tea with Paul’s mother brought our attention to subtle details that had changed from a year ago. We had spoken on the phone numerous times, and she always seemed to be her usual bright, yet pensive self. In person, she conversed, yet sometimes appeared pre-occupied. We thought it was due to the antics of the new five-week-old kitten, Meadow. Anyone, at any age, couldn’t help but wonder what would happen next with that kind of energy! Although cute, the kitten seemed to exasperate her. Yet the additional family member brought smiles and provided entertainment—both good things.
One of Paul’s siblings had remarked that we shouldn’t be surprised when the mother Paul knew was not the same mother now. Even so, we wanted to share stories and observe. Talking about milestones and friends from her growing up years and early marriage era was comfortable for her; she easily remembered many details. However, when it was time to decide on a restaurant for dinner, she became hesitant and looked away, even though we had routinely eaten at a little Italian restaurant she enjoyed.
We observed the greatest signs of dementia as we prepared to leave for the restaurant. She was unable to find her purse or the jacket she preferred. Saying things slowly and calmly without pushing her was the most helpful response. Allowing more time helped.
We thought that a short excursion (three hours of car time, round-trip) to visit one of her dear friends might be a positive way to spend some time and experience new environments. As the day of the arrangements drew closer, we thought about our conversations in the car. In this case, driving time allowed limited meaningful conversation. Face-to-face conversations were more important. We decided to save the trip for another day.
Even though Paul’s Mom has a signed will and health directive, we felt that there were still some wishes that could be explored. Having spent the last five years researching death, dying, and end-of-life decisions, we wanted to give her an opportunity to tell us of further preferences. We were somewhat hesitant because we thought that she might not be interested in sharing her preferences. However, it was pleasing to see her so willing and agreeable in offering her thoughts. We ended our time together with loving embraces, smiles, and a touch on the arm and hand. This was the kind of quality family time that we had envisioned.
Like the rabbit hole encounter during our arrival at the airport, initially experiencing the decline of Paul’s Mom was a bit unsettling. When we stopped resisting “what is,” we found clarity to see another way to look at change. As we learned to flow with how the present moments unfolded in her life, we felt more relaxed (and believe that she did, too). No fixing or striving to change. Just acceptance and love.
Yes, it is difficult and emotional to watch a loved one decline physically and mentally. It is the apex of universal suffering. Unquestionably, this is hard on us emotionally (and physically) and we may feel as if we are being torn apart, yet the process of decline is not about us. It is about how our loved one’s life is approaching full circle. Acceptance, rather than resistance, of our loved one’s decline is the supreme gift.
When we accept the cycle of life, honor it, and view it with cherished gratitude, we expand our minds. It is only the physical body and mind—what we are used to—that is in decline. The loved one’s soul or essence is intact and immortal. Remembering that, we demonstrate love, support, gentle words, and touch. We honor our loved one.
We hold space for Source to do the work whether that is in the realm of recovery, revelation, or release or a combination of these areas. Source is vigilant, loving, and wise. Energies of patience, gentleness, and encouragement toward our loved one’s inward perspective are what are needed from us. Indeed, Source’s work is mysterious—we may never know reasons or answers behind what is happening—yet, that is okay. We don’t have to know everything, only that a power greater than we are, knows and cares.
From a higher vantage: Some excerpts say it all:
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven…
~The Byrds’ 1965 album, “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Every Thing There Is a Season)” featuring a few words by Bob Seeger (late 1950’s); majority of words excerpted from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, King James Version of the Bible (1611)
©2017 Barbara L. Krause